News 12 at 6 o'clock, January 16, 2008
AUGUSTA, Ga.---First new owners, then a new look, and now the mall announcing a new business model that calls for only one taxi provider.
"This is just like going back in time. Man this is a monopoly. Discrimination, you know," a cab driver and Hurricane Katrina evacuee who calls himself Mr. Henry told News 12. He is struggling to find work after the Augusta Mall announced his services were no longer needed.
"This never would go in New Orleans, you'd have enough cabs down at city hall to bring the city down," he said.
Mr. Henry is not alone. At least three other independent taxi owners gathered to say they're being treated unfairly. The Augusta Mall released a statement saying:
"In no way does Augusta Mall want to impact people negatively. Our current business model supports a leasing system for all aspects of our business, and this change reflects that business model."
In other words, Checker Cab of Augusta will lease the space and the others are out of luck.
"What it does to us small cab company owners...It puts you out of business," said Mark Lavigne. "Checker Cab of Augusta is one of the largest providers in the city, and now it is the sole provider for the Augusta Mall...others have to go, and if they don't, they could face jail time."
"He said 'If you pick her up you will be arrested'," said Bettie Clark. "I did stick my hands out and said handcuff me now."
News 12 took U.S.A. Taxi to the mall, and within minutes, flashing lights. Mr. Henry is not surprised: "Security is only doing what he's told to do...he have a job to do."
Bettie and other drivers like her say they are just looking to do their jobs. "Personally it hurts...it hurts bad," Bettie said.
"It's hurting real bad..it's hurting our pocket books. I mean we can't pay our bills," said Michael Moyer.
"I'm a widow, and that's the way I support myself...without it I don't know what I'd do," said Bettie.
Cab drivers can drop off riders at the mall, but they can't pick them up. The mall says signs will go up soon stating "This space reserved for Checker Cab of Augusta".